How much is music worth?

Pitchfork has a great article on the consumer prices of music over the last century. Some interesting bits:

Setting aside the particular format, then, albums gross less than half as much, on average, as they once did, and singles bring in roughly one-fifth of their past glories. For comparison, remember that overall revenues in constant dollars are roughly one-third what they were at the U.S. industry’s millennial peak. Units have shifted, all right: into insignificance…

One more quick point about the data: Adjusting revenues for inflation can also shed light on individual formats, such as the growing vinyl niche. Vinyl albums (including EPs), at $23.86 per unit in 2014, certainly are expensive compared with CDs, which averaged $12.87, or download albums, which averaged $9.79, especially considering the alternative of free, on-demand streams. That’s up from only an inflation-adjusted $15.45 per vinyl album in 1999, compared with $19.23 for CDs. Still, vinyl is actually cheaper than it was in 1977, its biggest year-ever by units shipped and by inflation-adjusted revenue, when the average unit cost $24.81 accounting for inflation. In 2015, even when recorded music’s expensive, it’s cheap.

First published Apr 22, 2015